Romania edges closer to F-35 fighter jet buy, but stops short of firm commitment
Romania has said it aims to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets as the next step in reinforcing its security capabilities.
The NATO nation has raised its defence spending to 2.5% of GDP this year from 2% as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
‘Having robust, credible, interoperable, flexible and efficient air defence operational capabilities... as part of our commitments as a NATO and EU state is key to Romania meeting its defence policy objectives,’ the country’s Supreme Defence Council (CAST) said in a statement.
‘The air force's modernisation process will continue through the acquisition of last generation F-35 jets.’
The council made no mention of timing or the number of platforms it seeks.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said last year that Romania was already considering the acquisition of the fighter.
Any F-35 jet sale will be subject to US approval and Romania could get them through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.
As the number of countries choosing the Lockheed Martin-made jet grows, its flyaway cost is projected to fall to around $80 million soon, making the fighter a very attractive option for international customers.
Interoperability is also a focal point that draws new customers as more and more militaries join the F-35 club.
With these characteristics, even small air forces, like Romania's (eleventh in size in NATO), are willing to accept the maintenance and upkeep expenses that the complex fifth-generation fighter carries.
Romania currently operates 17 F-16A/B Block 15 Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) fighters, acquired from Portugal and with deliveries completed in 2021, together with 16 MiG-21 Lancer fighters.
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